Aidan looks at Corey standing in the middle of the empty shop, a piece of bread in one hand and a grin on his face that lights up the dark corners. He’s so going to offer to help, she thinks. And because I live within walking distance, he’s going to ask me to pitch in too so we can spend innocent time together. And I’m going to say yes, because I like him and because I am that kind of person. And this is all going to be a disaster, because I think Mr. Morgan is something Evil and….
Aidan closes her eyes and shakes her head to rid herself of a negative stream of consciousness. She looks up at Corey trying to gather a new perspective. He’s so pleased with himself. He’s such a lovely person and if I say no, he’ll be volunteering to help Mr. Morgan all by himself, alone in this dark, empty shop…vulnerable.
Oh, crap. What is wrong with me?
“I think that is a wonderful idea. I have a few contacts…we can make it a rare book store to fit in with the theme of the street.” Mr. Morgan steps around the counter to stand next to Corey. They begin planning, walking around, and tossing dust into the air with each step.
Aidan stands and heads to the front of the store, stepping around them. She pauses to acknowledge the electrified air that cocoons them. She can almost pluck it from their auras swirling so fast. Instead, she goes to one of the front windows, lifts the latch and pulls it up. It slides easily. Chilly air wraps around her hands, slinks up her body. She shivers.
Across the street, a light post clicks as the sun slides past the horizon. The streetlight illuminates the bench below and the girl sitting on it.
She has curly blonde hair that surrounds her small round face like a lion’s mane. All of her clothes are black which forms a perfect backdrop for the silver medallion hanging between her breasts. She stares at the shop. She meets Aidan’s eyes. She doesn’t let go.
Corey takes Aidan’s shoulder, swirls her around, and breaks the staring contest with the girl outside. “We can call it Grimm’s,” he says.
“Call what what?” she asks blinking in the dark cave that is now the shop. She reaches for the space beside the door that should have a switch, but finds the wall empty.
“Sorry, the switch is in the back,” says Mr. Morgan, “and I haven’t had time to replace the light bulbs. I’ll be right back.” He heads through the back again.
“We can call the bookstore Grimm’s,” says Corey patiently, “keeping with the theme of the strip.”
“Since when have you become a local business owner?” Aidan asks.
“Well, I thought I’d come and at least help get it ready to open. And, after football season, I’ll need a part time job. What better place than right down the road from you?”
“You don’t know me well enough to want to spend that much time near me.”
Corey’s excitement fades a small bit. He leans close. His lips almost but not quite touch her ear. “Defenses,” he whispers. He grins when she doesn’t respond as if seeing something in her face she doesn’t know she put there.
She turns away and steps to the other front window. Unlatching it, she opens the window and glances at the bench across the street.
The girl is still there, but Aidan avoids her eyes, turning back to the shop just as Mr. Morgan returns with a few lamps.
“You have got to be kidding,” Celia says. “Oil lamps? Who has those anymore?”
“When electricity fails, you should always have an alternative,” Mr. Morgan says matter-of-factly. He places one on one side of the counter and the other on the other end. Pulling a silver lighter from a pocket, he lifts the glass on the first lamp, twists the wick just high enough, and lights it, adjusting the flame briefly before replacing the glass. He does the same for the other.
The old building warms in the fire glow. Now, Aidan can see the potential. Now, she can see curling up in one of the front corners next to the window with a book. Now she can envision the shelves filling the store. Now, she can imagine inhaling that scent, that wonderful leather and old paper scent that permeates old books. Now, she can understand Corey’s excitement.
It is one of the bigger buildings on the strip. Taller than most, it has a balcony no one has ever used as long as she can remember.
Aidan closes her eyes and pictures the way it could be, fresh paint, new sign…
And ideas flow, pushing away warnings her body gives in the presence of Mr. Morgan, brushing aside the vision of the girl on the bench outside.
Aidan turns to Mr. Morgan. “There should be a fireplace.”